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When it comes to auto insurance claims, car fires are relatively rare. But if you’ve ever seen a vehicle engulfed in flames, you know it can be a frightening scene.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), there are about 200,000 vehicle fires each year in the United States – causing nearly $2 billion in property damage and claiming hundreds of lives. Since car fires can happen at any moment (and escalate quickly), being prepared on how to react will provide the best chance of protecting yourself and your family.
Here’s what you need to know about how car fires get started – and what you should do if you ever encounter one.
There are a few common causes of vehicle fires. They include:
A car fire can engulf your vehicle in a matter of minutes, so time is of the essence. If you find yourself in a vehicle that catches fire, follow these steps.
What if the flames are coming from someone else’s ride? Read our related article on what to do if you witness a car accident.
If your car is on fire, you may be tempted to put it out yourself. While it may be possible to stop a fire with a Class B or Class C fire extinguisher, most safety experts advise it’s best to just keep your distance and leave the job to the professionals. (Read our related blog story on what to know about fire extinguishers.)
Opening your car’s hood or trunk can cause a sudden increase in airflow to the fire – which will make matters worse. And many of your car’s components (such as airbags, gas shocks, fuel tanks and batteries) can explode during a fire, sending dangerous shrapnel in your direction.
A fire can cause extensive damage to your vehicle in a short amount of time. According to the NFPA, about two-thirds of all car fires start in the engine compartment. That means there can be significant damage to your engine, transmission and electronic systems. The heat from the flames causes substantial paint damage. And smoke can cause irreparable damage to your interior and ventilation systems.
Due to the extent of all this damage, most cars that catch fire are considered a total loss by insurance companies. Learn more about how a car is determined a “total loss.”
A car fire can be covered by your auto insurance. But it all depends on the type of coverage you have, as well as the circumstances of the fire.
If your car catches fire because of an auto accident, then the damage generally can be covered under your collision insurance. However, if a car fire occurs for reasons not related to an accident – for example, a lightning strike or vandalism – that’s when comprehensive insurance can cover the damage.
Once your car is paid off, both of these coverages are optional. Questions about your specific policy? Talk to your local ERIE agent.
Of course, the best way to protect yourself from a car fire is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips:
No one pencils a car mishap in their calendar. But when you experience an unlucky break, that’s when we shine. Brighter times are ahead when you call on Erie Insurance, because it’s our job to help you handle the unexpected and get things back to normal. Get in touch with your local ERIE agent in your neighborhood today for a free, no-obligation auto insurance quote.
Haven’t heard of us? Erie Insurance started with humble beginnings in 1925 with a mission to emphasize customer service above all else. Though we’ve grown to reach the Fortune 500 list, we still haven’t lost the human touch.
Contact Kartsonas Agency, Inc. today to experience the ERIE difference for yourself.